Wednesday, December 8, 2010
While we won't have the opportunity on this trip to scale the Great Wall of China, yesterday we found ourselves climbing the old city walls of Nanjing.
Designed by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, who among other things, founded the Ming Dynasty, the Nanjing city walls were meant to consolidate the Emperor's power, keep out invaders, and designate Nanjing as the empire's capital city.
The project took 21 years to build, and involved 200,000 laborers moving 7 million cubic meters of earth. Although all of China's major cities had walls like this one, Nanjing is one of the few cities that continues to be protected from barbarian invasion to this day. (Thank you, le Wikipedia).
History aside, I was sold as soon as I saw English translations.
As we walked around the city walls, taking in the juxtaposition of ancient brick with modern skylines, we saw what we were pretty sure was a Buddhist nun...
... and a nice Chinese gentleman took our photo in front of the temple we passed!
(Full disclosure: I spent the morning looking for an apartment in Pittsburgh and it's almost noon and I haven't yet showered and we seriously need to start our day. So Will is going to finish this entry. Cheers!)
Later that night, we met up with Hanna, two old pals from Harbin, Cooper and Richard, and our new friend Michael at the Johns Hopkins school. We took a walk for dinner, passing this giant pancake stall...
On our way to a Yunnan resturant! As our hosts tell it, Nanjing food is notable for being 'subtle,' i.e., bland and not very good. On the upside, however, the southern capital offers cuisine from all over China and beyond, if you know where to look.
And they know where to look! Yunnan is a southwestern province known for its sheep and spice (which we will be hitting on our way out of China, when we fly from its capital Kunming to Bangkok!) This is fried goat cheese dipped in a sweet sauce.
Lamb stew with some greens and peppers.
This particularly delicious dish is 龙豆, or 'dragon beans.'
Another awesome dish, 多味豆腐, 'many flavors tofu,' features big chunks of smooshy tofu, a super spicy sauce, and fermented black beans.
After our Yunnan dinner, we took another little walk and ended up at Ellen's. You can tell it's a western-style bar by the Che Guevara and Bob Marley posters.
The glorious leader again finds his way into our lives - this time opening his doors to foreigners with a 'sup bitchez' word bubble.
Hanna, Beth, and Michael made the excellent choice of hot chocolate with Baileys, while I made the terrible decision of ordering the 'french wine' off the special menu. Wine in China is never good.
But I had fun anyway! Although I don't usually consider myself the type to seek out light conversation, it's amazing how traveling in a foreign place can remind you of how wonderful it is to see old friends and talk about familiar things.